When, oh ever when, will Justice Minister Peter MacKay just catch a break?
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down two of the Conservatives' mandatory sentencing rules for illegal possession of a firearm -- proving once again that the pesky Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn't know how to be a team player and toe the line for this Conservative government.
And whether crafting new bad laws, defending existing bad laws, or outright ignoring what the evidence says makes effective laws, the Conservatives seem hell-bent on wasting tax dollars pushing cases that are doomed to be struck down by Canada's highest court.
Highlight reel losses:
- Canada's prostitution law back in 2013.
- A key section in the Abolition of Early Parole Act -- which retroactively took away accelerated parole review from existing prisoners -- was found, in March 2014, to violate a person's Charter right not be tried or punished twice for the same crime:
"Imposing this... by means or retrospective legislation triggers the protecting against double punishment."
A ruling against parts of the Truth in Sentencing Act (a "centrepiece" of the Tory crime agenda, meant to curb a judge's ability to give an inmate extra credit for time spent behind bars before sentencing) last spring, which restored a judge's discretion to allow up to 1.5 days credit for time served.
- Assisted suicide ban in February.
Keep your eyes on the scoreboard:
Bill C-51, if it becomes law, is ripe for Charter challenges, according to experts. Ron Atkey, former chair of Security Information Review Committee, even called the anti-terrorism bill a "constitutional mess." The question Atkey posed during recent House public safety committee hearings could easily be asked of much of the government's law-and-order agenda:
"Why provoke an avoidable constitutional challenge?"
Both the cyber-bullying legislation (Bill C-13) and Digital Privacy Act could soon face challenges thanks to a 2014 Supreme Court ruling upholding the privacy of Internet users and determining that Internet service providers can't routinely provide subscriber data to the police.
Bill C-53, the "life without parole bill," proposes mandatory life sentences for certain violent offenders while empowering the public safety minister to grant parole in rare cases. Experts predict legal challenges if it becomes law and say the Supreme Court could "chuck it out."
The mandatory victim surcharge, which removed a judge's discretion to waive victims' services fees if an offender can't afford to pay the penalty, was struck down as unconstitutional by an Ontario Court justice in 2014. Experts believe it will eventually end up in the Supreme Court. (In 2013, MacKay infamously said that homeless people should sell off "a bit of property" to come up with the cash to pay the surcharge if they're convicted of an offence.)
Speaking of, MacKay recently defended the government's law-making abilities:
"As we do with every bill, there’s a thorough and vigorous vetting of the legislation to see that it’s Charter-compliant, that it is consistent with the Constitution."
Tell that to Department of Justice whistle-blower, Edgar Schmidt, who sued his own ministry for being in violation of current legislation that requires the government to thoroughly vet all bills to ensure they comply with the Charter.